Saturday, December 31, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
Once there was a movie chosen randomly at the library. The movie started with decent animation, descended into beautiful screenshots, and exploded with story.
Emotion- again, emotion drives the plot, not just action. In fact, the moviemakers want to assure the readers that one must only act if faced with a challenge, even if the challenge can be avoided or ignored. The biggest conflict between Hiccup and his father lies in how they handle such obstacles. At the same time, avoiding a necessary conflict is not a wise choice of action, even if it’s the necessary one; Hiccup learns that all too well when things explode in his face and he has to fix it. We get beautiful action scenes that accompany the emotion; the only shame is that the movie's sequels (Legend of the Boneknapper, Gift of the Night Fury) lack that similar emotional conflict.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
Joker: "Just shoot him?" Know this, my sweet: the death of Batman must be nothing less than a masterpiece! The triumph of my sheer comic genius over his ridiculous mask and gadgets!
Friday, July 8, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
To get psyched for revising the last three chapters of this fantasy novel that is a tribute to fairy tales and Daphne du Maurier, I read Grimm’s Fairy Tales from cover to cover. The edition also came with a helpful list of footnotes denoting the different version of each tale, as well as possible sources, but my real point when reading was something that every adult realizes when reading fifty to sixty short stories meant for children’s bedtime:
Most are completely ridiculous!
As mentioned in my last entry, Sarah Beth Durst has written several blog posts going through certain stories line by line and commenting on how good, bad, or horrific they were. Ms. Durst read these stories for her novel Into the Wild, in which real people have to act out fairy tales for centuries if they get caught in the titular plant growth. When the Wild gets loose, Rapunzel’s daughter Julie has to work fast to tame it before it takes over her hometown. When it gets loose again in Out of the Wild, Julie has to worry about the same problem while traveling across the US on a broomstick.
Popular culture has also caught onto the trend of mocking the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christen Andersen; Dreamworks gave us the Shrek movies, while Disney attempted a self-parody with Enchanted. Even Gail Carson Levine, whose novel Ella Enchanted was critically acclaimed and heart rendering, wrote several short novellas that parodied “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “The Princess and the Pea.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Ms. Durst wrote Ice, a gorgeous retelling of “The Sun, the Moon, and the North Wind” set in the Arctic Circle with polar bears, shamans, and creepy deities. Juliet Marillier gave us Wildwood Dancing, which makes “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” look sugary sweet in comparison; I would not have read it if my friend Margaret had not recommended Ms. Marillier. (Thanks, Margaret!) Walt Disney Corporation managed to infuse some of the most ridiculous tales like “Sleeping Beauty” and “Cinderella” with lovable characters, monstrous villains, humor, and princess protagonists that did not annoy the viewer in the least.
There is a reason, however, why we feel drawn to fairy tales, whether or not we parody them or depict them in a somber light; I feel drawn to them because fairy tales were my security blanket. Azar Nafisi admitted the same thing in her book Reading Lolita in Tehran: fairy tales may have happy endings, but they also have pretty monstrous obstacles. Such a structure is reflected in the best stories, whether they are complex novels or simple cartoon shorts; readers like conflict, and they like giant monsters that can be defeated.
“Cinderella,” for example, has a stepmother and two stepsisters who will do anything to keep their ash girl from being normal; the Disney version takes that dynamic to the extreme. The two girls blame Cinderella for things that go wrong, load her with work so she can’t get ready for the king’s ball, and finally rip up her handmade ball gown. The stepmother then proceeds to sabotage Cinderella’s chance of trying on the glass slipper by locking her in her room and making the slipper shatter just as she’s about to try it on. It doesn’t help that she has the scariest voice in history, and she’s pretty much what every teenage girl would not want to have: an unloving authority figure who will never give you power. On top of that, Cinderella’s father died when she was just a little girl; that is traumatic for any child, especially when the surviving parent is not sympathetic.
Most fairy tales thus, in addition to providing such an obstacle like a deal with the Devil or a toady innkeeper who keeps stealing his customers’ magical tools, add a happy ending and helpful friends to deal with the monstrous quality. Sometimes this can play for dark humor; about three or four Grimm’s fairy tales involve the hero causing an apocalypse that leaves him the sole ruler of a kingdom (seriously). Others involve the Devil getting cheated, but the hero is not allowed to enter heaven either, so they wander between heaven and hell as a restless ghost. Please note that this happens when the hero is a guy, not a girl; the girl usually marries a prince who rescues her from burning at the stake or an unhappy life with her stepsisters. The king in these stories tends to execute the stepmother and stepsisters in violent manners, so the blood and gore is still presented.
The other reverence for fairy tales that we find is that they can be easily retold, as I’ve shown with the above examples, while keeping the monstrous obstacles and happy ending. We can take out the parts we don’t like, such as Cinderella’s fairy godmother (please stop making fairy godmothers evil), and modify it to suit our needs, as Disney has done. That Grimm’s Fairytales still exists is living proof that even if we don’t like princes who kill everyone to become happy, we do like it when characters receive happy endings after traumatic experiences. We simply change the rules as we go along.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Sunday, January 2, 2011
For a bit of context, a business professor accused 200 of his students of cheating on an exam . The students retaliated by posting the lecture on YouTube with their subtitles and a defense: Professor Quinn had used the textbook publisher's exam as his template, and the students had not known they were cheating. The debate has exploded on national television, with some of the major new outlets siding with Professor Quinn.
I side with the students on this issue, though I understand Professor Quinn's frustration. Education may be a privilege, but you have to rear it like a child: sometimes it refuses to comply to your need for a GPA above 3 points. Most of us work our butts off to pass our classes while trying to learn the subject matter. I preferred to learn, but grades measure our learning. And then someone CHEATS and surpasses all the hard-workers, including the professors who once had to work their butts off? No wonder the administration hates students who take the shortcut.
All the good teachers I've had in school believe in elbow grease. An art professor who gave me a B (and fairly enough because I didn't put in my best effort) warned us that he knew when students didn't hand in their own work. My high school economic teacher was head of the Honor Council AND the Social Studies department; she made us work hard, but we all got high scores on the AP Economics exam.
Something else all my good teachers believed in: courtesy. If they lost their tempers, we accepted it in grace and tried to learn from it. If we disagreed with them, we were allowed to bring it up in class, and we allowed them to shoot us down or apologize when we were right. I did a three-part blog post about the importance of courtesy when writing; ideally, we would apply that same courtesy to real life.
As several news outlets have noted, technology has stretched into grey areas where "cheating" and "information exchange" are concerned; students got furious when they perceived Professor Quinn as a hypocrite, since he hadn't made up his own exam. But could they have handled it better? Let's see . . .
Posting a YouTube video of the infamous lecture with subtitles of the students' counter-argument? Effective, but the video was filled with typos. Normally I wouldn't care, but writers never get published if their work is filled with typos and grammatical errors, and I'm a stickler about this sort of things. The students had made their point, but missing apostrophes don't help your cause.
An article in the student newspaper about "confronting" Professor Quinn, with students in the comments calling him "lazy"? I understand your point, but your enemy isn't a serial killer with a chainsaw and a hook.
Treat him objectively, and let him give his side of the story. Asking him loaded questions will support your view, but it won't give you the truth, or even his version of the truth.
But Professor Quinn is also at fault. While offering clemency to the accused, he not only forced every student to retake the exam, including the 400 who "did not cheat" but also refused to comment for student press. Professor Quinn has, in a nutshell, burned his bridges with the students as well as the student body by not offering his opinion to the newspaper or being gracious in the face of pressure. Teachers make mistakes, and they're not politicians; any administration that fires someone over a misunderstanding is a narrow-minded administration.
I'm also disappointed with Quinn's supporters; they claim that moral standards have lapsed in the twenty-first century. First off, while everyone doesn't cheat, there will always be people in the world searching for dirty shortcuts. College students have NOT become miscreants, and it's not fair to accuse the hard working of moral lapses. Lapses in work ethic, yes, especially in the age of consumerism. Lapses in working under pressure, yes. But lapses in MORALITY? Not only does that hurt, but we're the generation that has to handle potential ecological damage and political incompetence. I may not be planning to build efficient solar energy, but I know that I will do SOMETHING. I may have a heart turning into stone, but I have values.
I will treat you with courtesy because I believe in being nice, but do not think I am a selfish waif because of my age, or the technological era I belong to. I am not representative of my generation, and my generation does not represent me. I do not cheat. I procrastinate, yes, I may drink coffee and eat peanut butter when stressed, I may enjoy writing horror stories, I may text my friends, but I do not plagiarize. I cite my sources.
I am a writer. I am an artist. And I am a college student.